Rod and Elton’s epic 50-year feud
THE year was 1985, and Rod Stewart was playing a triumphant series of concerts at Earl's Court.
To add to the sense of occasion, he hired enormous football-shaped balloons, the size of blimps, to hang above the venue advertising his shows.
What he hadn't counted on, however, was the evil genius of his longtime rival and so-called friend Elton John - who hired a sniper to shoot the balloons down with an air rifle.
It's an anecdote that encapsulates a love-hate relationship which has spanned five long decades, The Sun reports.
This week, Rod, 73, stirred the pot again by taking a swipe at 70-year-old Elton's retirement tour - saying that it was "dishonest" and "stinks of selling tickets."
Elton is about to embark on a mammoth 300-date Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, something Rod sniffed is "not rock and roll."
He added in an interview on a US chat show: "I did email her [Elton] and said, 'What, again dear?' I didn't hear anything back."
Rod refers to Elton as "her" because to him, Elton is "Sharon" while he in turn is "Phyllis."
These were the nicknames given to them years ago by blues singer and pal Long John Baldry, who couldn't get enough of the camp and catty way they treated each other and gossiped.
As their bitchy alter egos the music superstars have been engaged in an inventive game of one-upmanship since they were neighbours in London back in the Seventies.
And they haven't lost the taste for it in their old age.
When they went head-to-head in the album charts in 2016, Rod revealed: "We text back and forth.
"How many albums I've sold and how many albums he has sold. I'm winning."
In many ways they are chalk and cheese - Elton is extravagant and prone to tantrums while Rod is more laid back and a bit tight.
But one thing the two men do share - apart from an obsessive love of football - is an intensely competitive streak.
The singers, who both grew up in North London, have always wanted to outdo each other when it comes to sales and success.
Hostilities came to a head when they were both performing in Las Vegas in 1978.
Caesar's Palace installed a banner outside, proudly announcing Rod's Blondes Have More Fun tour.
Sensing an opportunity for mischief, Elton had one put up on the building opposite, which read: "But Brunettes Make More Money".
Indeed, money is a constant source of conflict between the two - and Elton has the upper hand. He's worth a £340 million, while poor old Rod has a mere £166 million.
Rod famously tried to increase his fortune by leaving England to become a tax exile in 1975 - a move that did not impress Elton one bit.
Rod recalled telling his frenemy his plan and Elton responded by calling him a traitor and putting on Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance Marches so high they couldn't talk over it.
Of course, Elton's massive fortune makes him a very hard person to buy for - but one Christmas, Rod thought he'd cracked it by getting his mate a £300 novelty mini fridge.
Impressively, the gadget opened with a dramatic cloud of vapour. Elton would surely be thrilled.
But Rod later recalled in his autobiography: "Elton's present to me that year: a Rembrandt".
The rocker admitted: "I felt pretty small - although not as small as Elton presumably wanted me to feel when he later referred tartly to my present as 'an ice bucket'.
"It was not an ice bucket. It was a novelty portable fridge."
But while Elton might have the bigger bank account, Rod can easily outdo him when it comes to hair.
The father of eight still has his luxuriant blonde mop, while follicly challenged Elton famously resorted to a hair transplant in the Eighties.
Rod has gloated: "I've been fortunate I've still got it, unlike a couple of my mates in the music business. I am not going to mention any names."
Everyone knew he meant Elton, of whose hair he has previously noted: "It's sewn on!"
For Elton's 50th in 1997, Rod bought him "a full-size, sit-under hairdryer - like the ones you used to see in women's hairdressers." The card read: "The only thing I forgot to buy was the hair to go with it."
The swipe was perhaps appropriate payback for Elton's gift to Rod on the occasion of his marriage to second wife Rachel Hunter in 1990.
Poking fun at Rod's stingy side, Elton gave him a £10 Boots voucher with the message: "Get yourself something nice for the house."
Then there is their weight. Svelte Rod is proud of having remained the same weight for 15 years, while Elton is decidedly on the portly side.
Rod said: "I really seriously think he (Elton) has got to lose a little bit of weight. He's looking really large.
"He always has a go about my nose and hair, so we just bitch every now and then."
Food is one of the many addictions that Elton has battled, along with cocaine and alcohol.
Rod was also partial to drugs and booze, but claims that he could never keep up.
He revealed: "Oh, Elton could always do me under the table ... He could just stash it away.
"But there was a lot more of him than there was of me."
Their music has also been a subject for jibes. Rod recalled one attack: "Elton sent me an email saying, 'I never have a headache but yesterday morning I had the biggest f***ing banger I've ever had. It was because you were on the f***ing radio!'"
All this sniping, the pair insist, is just their way of showing affection.
Elton, who says he and Rod are "cut from the same cloth," explained: "We try and publicise the fact that we always have a go at each other in the papers, but in fact we do that for reasons only known to us, really. We're actually very good friends."
They even went on safari in Kenya together in 1985 - dressing in bow ties and formal jackets for dinner round the campfire.
Elton also insisted on bringing his Cartier diamonds, which his assistant Bob was meant to look after.
Rod said: "One night in Africa, as we were having dinner, members of the party decided to sneak this precious box away from Bob and hide it, just to get a reaction.
"But Elton is a very difficult person to faze. Bob began to panic, but Elton simply said, 'Don't worry, darling, it's only the daytime stuff.'"
Their enjoyment of each other's senses of humour - Elton claims to have kept every single email they have exchanged because they are so funny - is in fact the basis of their whole friendship and their "feud".
For Rod, in fact, what sparked their lifelong bond when they met nearly 50 years ago was a classic example of their mutual love of sheer silliness.
He recalled: "I loved the fact that he was the kind of bloke who could see the comedy value in driving 30 times around the roundabout that surrounds the Marble Arch monument in the middle of London."
This story originally appeared on The Sun and is republished here with permission.